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Published: October 22nd 2017
Fresh faced and excited
When we were clean, excited and still energetic. This sign is at the entrance to the Inca Trail at Kilometer 82.
Geo: -13.52, -71.99
David, our guide from Peru Treks, picked us up at our hotel at 5:30am. We then drove all around Cusco picking up the other 12 members of our group. The pair from Ireland were staying at the Wild Rover, which I thought was funny.
Once we were all together we headed to Ollyntaytambo for breakfast. Since we had all been half asleep on the bus, we did a little "get acquainted " over food. This was also our last shot at a flushing toilet. I joked that there was toilet paper but no seat: amenities will disappear one by one until it is just me and a bush.
Dave and Laura are from the area between Dublin and Belfast. The are near the beginning of a 6-month around-the-world adventure. Sebastien and Francois are from Paris. Brian and Eunice are from LA. Florian and Helen are from Germany but live in Zurich. Travis and Meagan are from San Francisco. Sam and Allison are newlyweds and hail from Boston.
Our second guide is named Eddie and we also have a pack of porters who carry most of the gear. David tells us that they prefer to be called "chasquis" which means "fleet footed runners."
Working the land by hand
We saw a lot of farming and almost no farm equipment other than hand tools and cows. Agriculture, at least in the mountain areas, is still done by force of hand and will. That's probably why many farmers supplement their income with cash from carrying bags for gringo hikers and selling them drinks.
Ollantaytambo the bus continued to the entrance of the trail at "Kilometer 82." There we ditched the bus and hefted our hiking packs. You have to present your ticket and passport at the entry gate and have your ticket stamped each morning at a control gate. We were told that this is part of the security in place to keep thieves and other undesirables off the trail.
The first day of the Inca Trail hike is the easiest, but I wouldn't call it easy. The path itself is in really good condition, but mostly consists of granite rocks and steps of various sizes, heights and orientations. There are people who live all along the way--at least on the first day. Had I known this, I wouldn't have carried enough water for the entire day with me. At each place we stopped, there was at least one person selling drinks and sometimes candy. I don't want to give the impression that the area is well settled, but the path is very much in use by farmers from the local community who still use hand tools to work their land.
Did I mention that Mike and I are easily the oldest in our group?
Just as I feared, I am the slow old lady. I still think I can do it, but being last hurts the confidence. It didn't help when David came over and told me that I can hire a second porter for the rest of the trip. It just makes a daunting challenge even more so. Once again, I'm in "Little Engine That Could" mode.
Lunch was set up for us in a tent set up on a small farm property that had quite a few animals, including 3 little pigs, roaming about. There is a really cool irrigation system here in this part of the mountains that allows you to redirect water using a system of gates. Lunch was soup, trout, rice, roasted mixed vegetables and "digestive tea." The stops are way too long and not frequent enough. I prefer to stop briefly, catch my breath and move on before my body decides it is at rest for the day. I talked to both Travis and Megan a bunch. They both enjoy travel and volunteer work so we had plenty in common to jumpstart a discussion. The whole group is very friendly and has good stories to keep the trail time
The first of many views
The problem with photos is that they don't even come close to doing the scenery justice. We were very lucky with our weather.
David told us we need a team name by the end of the first day. We bantered about that for a while. Puns seemed to be out because they were lost on the non-native English speakers. Eventually we settled on "Casi Familia" which means "Almost Family." It's not clever, but it's warm and supportive which are two qualities we will need to get through the rest of the trip.
We spent the night camping on a grassy flat area among a small collection of buildings which is called the village of Wayllabamba (3,000m). The name in Quechua means "grassy plain." The bathroom was "guarded" by a donkey who stands sentinel just outside the door. Our dinner was a lively communal affair. Each meal begins with soup and ends with tea. There is always plenty of food and the cook does a really nice job with the supplies that the chasquis carry for him/us along the trail.
The average height of a Peruvian is considerably shorter than my husband. Unfortunately we didn't clue in to an important ramification of this until we climbed into our tent the first night: one of us was longer than the tent. We both slept oriented diagonally
Almost desert in this are
Lots of cacti the first day on the trail
so that he could fit his entire body in the tent. The sleeping bag only reached his armpits. It's a problem, but not too bad the first night when it was relatively warm. If you are tall and considering this trip, I'd advise bringing your own sleeping bag at a minimum. Also (jumping ahead), there was a general consensus among the group that the second two sites did not make for comfortable sleeping. A thin inflatable camping pad would have been really welcome.
Day 1 complete: 12K down, 32 to go.
Tot: 2.361s; Tpl: 0.065s; cc: 13; qc: 31; dbt: 0.0299s; 2; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.3mb